Pandemic – Optimal Research Station Placement

A few days ago, I stumbled upon Joshua Snider’s analysis on the optimal placement for Research Stations in Pandemic. And it’s a really great read, especially if you need a starting point for how to play Pandemic well.

For those of you who are new to Pandemic and need to know of the implications of Research Station placement, here’s the skinny: Research Stations are locations on the board where any of the players can turn in their cards to research a cure to 1 of 4 diseases plaguing the board. More importantly, however, Research Stations function as transport nodes. That is, players can travel from one Research Station or another without having to discard a card. This is key in a game where discarding cards is something requiring heavy deliberation because those cards can help you win the game if you collect a sufficiently large enough set to research a cure for a disease.

So in a game of Pandemic where disasters are happening all over the world, it behooves you to place Research Stations in optimal locations so as to allow easy access to those affected regions, whether it’s to clear out disease cubes or exchange cards between players.

It’s much easier to build the Stations if you have an Operations Expert on your side. And if you don’t, Research Station building is subject to the whims of the cards you have, so you’ll have to take that into consideration. Finally, Josh’s analysis makes the assumption that the spread of diseases on the board is uniform versus what normally happens: diseases concentrating on a particular region.

To solve for the uniform case, Josh takes Matt Wigway’s prior work. and goes assigning a centrality value to each city. The more central a city is to other spaces on the board, the higher the score. However, that’s only a rough guideline since your goal is to build out an optimal network of Research Stations. After running analysis based on distance to each Research Station for cases of 2+ Research Stations on the board, here’s how things panned out:

Pandemic Research 2
2: Atlanta with either Baghdad or Cairo.
3: Atlanta, Hong Kong covering East Asia, and Cairo
Pandemic Research 4
4: Atlanta, Hong Kong covering East Asia, Istanbul, and Sao Paulo
5: Gives you several different solutions which are

North AmericaEuropeEast AsiaMiddle EastSouth America
AtlantaIstanbulShanghaiChennaiSao Paulo
AtlantaIstanbulHong KongJacksonSao Paulo
AtlantaIstanbulHong KongJacksonSao Paulo
AtlantaParisHong KongEveBogota
AtlantaParisHong KongCairoBogota
AtlantaEssenHong KongCairoBogota
AtlantaLondonHong KongCairoBogota

6: Atlanta, Paris, Khartoum, Hong Kong, Karachi, Bogota.

So based on this, Cairo, Hong Kong, Bogota, and Paris are decent candidates in which to plan out your Research Center placement.

Pandemic Diseases
However, Josh does note that in the initial setup, it’s more likely than not that your chief concern will be dealing with a huge influx of diseases in a certain region, which will change your priorities in terms of where you’re going to build a Research Station. For example, up above, you’ll note that there are diseases plaguing the Middle East/South Asia as well as a few scattered diseases in East Asia. Europe and North America is untouched, which means it doesn’t make sense to build Research Stations there.

But for new players looking for a rough guideline of where to place your Research Stations, Josh’s analysis offers a pretty good starting point. Check out his post if you want to dig further into the details!

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